McIlroy shows perseverance in round and career

By Rex HoggardJanuary 31, 2014, 4:35 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Following Thursday’s 63 at the Dubai Desert Classic one Irish scribe wrote, “The legend of Rory McIlroy has been reborn.”

While it may seem a tad premature to announce mission accomplished – they tend to play all 72 in championship golf – and the Ulsterman’s Friday round was something less than highlight quality, there is no mistaking the air that has been blown back into McIlroy’s sails.

If Friday’s 70 was not exactly vintage Rors, it was a moment in time worth noting. On a day when the wind finally arrived at the Emirates Golf Club and McIlroy set out sans his A-game, it was an accomplishment to post something under par and maintain the lead.

“I have to realize that I’m in the middle of this golf tournament, even though it wasn’t quite as good as yesterday,” he said. “Hopefully that was my bad round out of the way and I can shoot a couple of better ones over the weekend.”

It’s equally compelling that McIlroy closed with a birdie at the 18th hole playing from the metaphorical weak side. After Thursday’s masterpiece, McIlroy figured his wedge game was still in need of an upgrade. He even traded in his 3-iron for a fourth wedge (a 52-degree) to help alleviate some of the gaps.

The result on Friday was a dart at the last from just over 100 yards to 2 feet for birdie and a one-stroke advantage over Brooks Koepka.

Making strengths out of weaknesses, that’s what champions do, and McIlroy has faced more than his share of weaknesses over the last 12 months. With each passing event, whether it was a missed cut in the season opener or a first-round loss at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, the questions cascaded in a rush of criticism, some self-inflicted while others were unfairly launched.

The victory at the Australian Open to end last season, maybe more so than his blowout victories at the 2011 U.S. Open and 2012 PGA Championship, may turn out to be a seminal moment in McIlroy’s career.

“He’d just won in Australia, you could see the relief on his face,” said Dave Stockton Sr., McIlroy’s putting coach. “It was relief that he got that win off his back. He certainly is in a position where he had a long year answering a lot of questions.”

For McIlroy, his Australian Open victory, which included a Sunday shootout with Adam Scott, was a reason to stop doubting himself and tune out anyone who may still want to.

Midway through his closing nine on Friday, a particularly difficult stretch for the world No. 6, there was a moment when things could have unraveled. A moment that, at least in 2013, could have led to another missed opportunity.

Cruising along at 12 under par, McIlroy’s approach at the par-4 13th hole landed about 15 feet left of the flag. After watching his birdie putt wander by the hole, he gunned his 2-footer for par past again.

It was McIlroy’s first three-putt of the week, but the shoulders stayed square and the head high as he marched to the 14th tee.

“I regrouped after that,” he said. “I hit a couple of loose drives out there which I haven’t really done the past couple of weeks, but still feel like I’m playing well enough to obviously go on.”

In 2013, a miscue like that at the 13th may have led to him going off. He answered with a scrambling par at the 17th hole and that wonderful wedge at the last.

Stockton figured that all the attention paid to McIlroy’s decision to join Nike Golf last year was largely misplaced. It wasn’t the equipment that facilitated his slide from first in the Official World Golf Ranking to sixth, it was a mind that was moving in too many directions.

There were lawsuits with former managers and sponsors to deal with and too much chatter about what he should be doing to fully concentrate on the only thing that matters – winning golf tournaments.

They say the best in any endeavor are forged by adversity and McIlroy has endured more than his share. He’s a 24-year-old who, depending on who you ask, has weathered two slumps in his young career and soared to two major championships.

For many, 2013 would best be a year forgotten. But as McIlroy continues to climb out of the depths of last season it seems he is more interested in clinging to the lessons learned.

“He’s obviously in a really good place,” Stockton said. “Everything around him, he’s in a better place.”

And now he’s back to a familiar place, beating world-class fields with or without his best stuff.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.